The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon – Book Review

The Priory of the Orange Tree is a massive book. The size of this book has always put me off from picking it up. I don’t think I would have ever read it if it wasn’t for the buddy read. I read the e-book and seeing that it had more than 1000 pages did intimidate me a little bit at the start. A quick Google search told me that the physical book has 848 pages. That’s still huge for a single book.

The world is divided by rituals, traditions and religion. In the east is Inys, where the House of Berethnet has ruled for a thousand years. Every queen gives birth to a daughter who carries forward the rule of Berethnet house in order to ensure that the Nameless One does not awaken. The current queen is Queen Sabran the Ninth who is still unwed. Her court has an outsider Ead Duryan who keeps a watchful eye on the Queen and protects her with forbidden magic. In the West, across the dark sea is Seiiki where Tane has trained her whole life to be a dragon rider. But on the eve of her initiation, she is forced to make a choice that might jeopardize her chance to be a dragon rider. When the threat of Nameless One awakening solidifies, the East and the West is forced to make an alliance against the common enemy.

It did take some time for me to get into the book. The main reason being that there were a lot of character introductions in the first few chapters. It was a bit hard to keep track of all the character names and the place names. But around 75 pages in, everything became smooth. By then it was quite easy to remember all the characters. There are four different narratives in the book. The first two narratives are from the main protagonists Ead and Tane. Then we have secondary narratives from Loth who is a very close friend of Ead and Queen Sabran. And the fourth narrative is from the POV of Niclays who was exiled from Inys when he failed to brew an elixir of immortality for Queen Sabran.

Normally fantasy books are always a series. Even though The Priory of the Orange Tree is a standalone, the author has successfully created a wonderful world. The characters have depth and are developed well. Once I got past the first 50-75 pages, it was a gripping read. I was pulled into the world.

What I loved the most in this book is how the author has shown how a single incident can be twisted by humans to suit their purpose and made into religion. All the future generations blindly believe this and are not ready to open their minds to the rituals and traditions of others. In today’s world, the message this book gives is powerful. The threat of the Nameless One awakening is what forces the East and the West to meet. But eventually they learn to respect each other’s beliefs without giving up on their own. The characters show that we need not have the same rituals, traditions, religion, color or sexual orientation to respect each other and live together peacefully.

What I missed the most in the book are dragons. I loved the book cover and I love dragons. So I expected to read more about dragons. But they did not have much of a role or significance in the book. I was a bit disappointed with that. Also, some of the scenes felt rushed. Since it’s a single books, I could understand why it had to be rushed. It could have easily been made into a duology.

Otherwise, it is a great read. Don’t let the book’s size intimidate you. If you love fantasy, you’ll definitely love this book.

My Rating: 4.5⭐/5

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